We “girl moms” all share one very passionate goal-raising strong, independent and self-confident daughters. We want them to grow up knowing that they can be and do anything they want, even if society tells them otherwise. In fact, especially if society tells them otherwise! So, with that in mind, let’s talk about some secrets to raising independent and self-confident daughters that grow into strong women who know how to stand up for themselves.
7 Secrets to Raising Independent and Self-Confident Daughters
Amy Shumer said something that really resonates with me. She said, “I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story. I will.” It’s a message we need to share with our daughters- no one else gets to write their story. Not society, not their friends, not their significant other. Not even us. We do not write our children’s stories. We merely give them the tools necessary to write their own. That’s important to remember for the first tip. Let’s take a look and you’ll see what I mean.
1. Let them write their own story, even if it’s a tale of pink-loving princesses
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I swore that I would never raise her surrounded by princesses, Barbies, and filly pink stuff. It bothered me that some “girl moms” focused on being cute, pretty, and princess-like. That wasn’t going to be me. No way, no how! I thought, “My daughter doesn’t need me to raise her thinking looks should determine how to treat people or that Barbie represents the ‘ideal’ body image.” I certainly wouldn’t be taking her to the nail salon to get “all pretty” the way some other moms did! Nope. Not me!
Then my daughter became a toddler. A princess-loving, pink-adoring toddler who wanted to play with pretend makeup, Barbies, and everything else I swore she’d never play with.” I even take her to get her nails done sometimes, and she absolutely loves it. At he same time, though, I remind her that she’s more than just that. Long story short, I’m doing all the things I swore I’d never do, and that’s okay! I’m letting her lead the way and write her own story. Maybe it’s not the tale I originally imagined, but then again, all the best stories have a few twists!
2. Remove the words “that’s for boys” from your vocabulary
Since we were raised believing that boys play with cars and girls with dolls, we have to work a little harder to overcome decades of conditioning. If we want to raise independent and self-confident daughters, we have to start by teaching them that there’s no such thing as “just for boys.”
I want my daughter to know that she can be a princess AND an architect. She can dress up her Barbies one minute and build impressive LEGO structures the next. Go to ballet class on Tuesday and soccer practice on Wednesday. Play “tea party” at noon and stomp in mud puddles at 1. If we remove words like “just for boys” now, hopefully our granddaughters will never know a world where cars and Legos are kept separate from dolls and pink castles.
3. Teach her the value of inner beauty
Despite all the advances in women’s rights (and all the claims to the contrary), society still puts a lot of value on outer looks. Just look at your favorite movies, TV shows, or even your Instagram feed for proof. See who gets the starring versus supporting role and which photos have the most likes, then tell me that we don’t focus on outer beauty anymore.
Again, if we want to change the world for our daughters and granddaughters, we have to put more focus on inner beauty. Tell your daughter that she’s beautiful because she makes you laugh, not because she has a pretty smile. Remind her that her best feature is her wonderful heart, not her long hair. Even when you talk about celebrities, discuss the good they do, not how good they look.
4. Teach her how to advocate for herself
The hardest part of raising independent and self-confident daughters is knowing when to take a step back and let them fight their own battles. It’s hard, when your daughter comes to you and tells you that her former best friend is telling everyone she has “cooties,” or her math teacher says that boys are just plain better at fractions than girls. There’s a reason they call us “mama bears” when our kids are being treated unjustly!
However, if we want them to stand up for themselves as adults, we have to give them the chance to do it as children. Rather than call up former BFF’s mom, ask your daughter how SHE wants to handle it. Instead of ripping into her math teacher (who definitely deserves it), give her the tools to prove him wrong herself. Let her know that she has every right to stand up for herself, and that no one can make her feel inferior without her consent (as Eleanor Roosevelt said).
5. Let her know it’s okay to ask for help
I know that this tip seems contradictory to the last one, but I promise, they really do go together. Part of being strong and independent is knowing when you need a little help. You know that old saying, “no man is an island,” right? Well, same applies to us girls! We all need something at some point from someone else. Otherwise, we’d all be doctors, pilots, mechanics, master chefs, and everything else all at once, right?
So, while you’re teaching your daughter to stand up for herself, remind her that you’ll be there to support her if she needs it. While you’re teaching her to change a tire, remind her that there’s nothing wrong with calling AAA, either! It’s okay to be a therapist and need therapy. It’s fine to be a master chef and order takeout. Basically, it’s okay to be fierce and strong yet still need your mom sometimes.
6. Surround her with positive role models of BOTH genders
We’ve all heard that we need to surround our girls with powerful female role models if we want to raise strong and independent women. That’s absolutely true, no doubt. However, we also need them to see strong male role models. We need encourage father/daughter bonds (or grandfathers, uncles, and so on) so they grow up seeing how women deserve to be treated. We need to show them strong men who sstand beside strong women, whether it’s in Hollywood or Washington.
It’s too easy to villainize men and make them the enemy, but you’re not doing your daughter any favors by doing so. It’s also incredibly unfair to our sons. Equality, by its very definition, bars us from declaring the opposite sex our enemy. After all, very few would see their enemy as an equal. So, show your girls that there are just as many wonderful male role models as there are female, and that it’s okay to look up to them, too.
7. Be the woman you want your daughter to become
I saved the most important secret for last. If you want your daughter to become a strong and independent woman, be one yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do” has never worked. Not in the entire history of the planet. The good news? It’s never too late to start writing a new story. So, while you’re teaching your daughter about strength, start finding it in yourself. When you tell her that she’s beautiful because she makes you laugh, remind yourself that you’re beautiful because you help others. In other words, turn all of these secrets around and applying them to yourself. 😊
I’ve never been prouder to be a woman. To raise my daughter in a world where we are recognized, where we can work, where we have a voice, can lead and have an impact. I want to teach her that all her dreams and aspirations are all within her reach. That she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. I will teach her how important it is to not only take care of herself, but of her community as well. I want to raise a strong, independent and self-confident daughter, just like the woman that raised me.